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The Fab Five: 1922

"Lansburgh bathing girls" in 1922 near Washington, D.C. Girl on the right: Iola Swinnerton. View full size. 4x5 glass negative, National Photo Company.

"Lansburgh bathing girls" in 1922 near Washington, D.C. Girl on the right: Iola Swinnerton. View full size. 4x5 glass negative, National Photo Company.


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Today’s Top 5

Iola has grown on me!

In the first picture I saw of Iola, I thought she was so odd looking that she was kind of homely, but her looks have grown on me. In this picture, she looks absolutely adorable! You know that it is all natural, too. She looks like she is wearing some lip rouge, but probably no other makeup. I don't like the bathing outfit with the slats but, as my father used to say, you can't make a sow's ear out of a silk purse!

I'm glad that she took the opportunity to enter the beauty contests on the beach before that fleeting blessing; youth, got away from her, as it does to us all!

This picture

This picture is set on the roof of the Lansburgh department store in downtown DC in the vicinity of 7th and E.

Mystery girl Iola Swinnerton

Iola is such a mystery! She seems to have taken Washington by storm in 1920 when she was named the most beautiful girl in the District. For those who have access to historic newspapers, see the front page of the Mansfield (Ohio) News of Nov 21, 1920, for a write-up and photo:

Winner of Beauty Contest is Athlete

Miss Iola Swinnerton of Washington has won an opportunity for fame and fortune in having been selected as the most beautiful of hundreds of capital girls in a recent beauty contest. Miss Swinnerton, who is a cashier in a Washington restaurant, attributes her beauty to her love of athletics and outdoor exercise.

Thought we found her in Dec 1942. Iola Taylor Swinnerton, described as the "Stone Woman" because of a rare disease that was hardening her legs, was getting married in Chicago to one Theron Warren. Her first husband, Gerald Swinnerton, deserted her in 1941.

[According to the news accounts from 1942, Iola Taylor had married Gerald Swinnerton in 1918. So she couldn't have been the Miss Swinnerton of Washington, D.C., unless they Missed when they should have Mrsed. Which is a definite possibility. (Updated July 2018) - Dave]

So happy!

I love the pictures from the 1920s! The people always look so happy. Granted, these girls just won a bathing suit contest, so of course they'll be happy, but in every 20s picture I've seen everyone looks so happy and carefree, like they can do anything and be anything in the world. Just love it thank you for this site!

Exquisite Clothing Detail

I adore the headpiece on # 5 on the right. I want to steal that idea for a costume. It would play beautifully today.


I found the same Washington Post article and it gives the other girls names as Mary Lee, Thelma Spencer, Hattie Spencer and Julia Cunningham.

The winners were models for Lansburgh & Brothers (which I assume was a department store or dress shop) and the photos are from a "Style Show" held at the Tidal Basin

[Yes, Lansburgh's was a big department store in Washington. - Dave]

Elusive Iola

I haven't found a great deal more, but I did discover some newspaper clippings about her beauty contest winnings via, and if it helps to narrow your search any, in 1920 she was described as an 18-year-old restaurant cashier from (and working in) Washington, D.C.


According to the SSDI there are at least 30 women who were issued Social Security cards in Wash. D.C. named Iola who would have been between the ages of 16 and 25 in 1922.

An SSDI search for "Iola Swinnerton" turned up bupkis. So she either married or she is still alive and approximately 100 years of age.

I didn't even bother checking Maryland or Virginia. Apparently Iola was a very commmon name in the South and Midwest at the turn of the 20th century.

Iola's friend...

...the girl second from the right... She is in a number of these 'bathing beauty' pics, too, and always right next to Iola. They must have been best friends, or maybe even sisters! :)

Famous Groupie

I think the woman on the right looks exactly like Pamela Des Barres, which is not necessarily a compliment.

More Iola

Iola is OK in this photo, but I like her even better in this one.

[She's also here and here and here. Who can tell us what became of lovely Iola? - Dave]


The woman on the right is fantastic. What a beautiful face!

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